When it is no longer cricket

In fact, more than 70% of the Umno members at that time were teachers, writers, newspaper editors, poets, intellectuals, etc. They were well-read people who only wanted what was best for the country. They were not tainted by thoughts of the New Economic Policy or Deng Xiaoping’s ideology such as ‘to get rich is glorious’. And their leaders were those from the elite community.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

There are many positive and negative stories in the media today regarding this most important day in Malaysia’s history, Merdeka Day. Of the many, I have decided to pick up the report by Martin Vengadesan, Rahmah Ghazali, Rashvinjeet S. Bedi and T. Avineshwaran, which was published in The Star.

This report quotes a few people whom I personally know. 

Reading through this report it sounds more like a story about Tunku Abdul Rahman than a story about Merdeka. I suppose in a way it is and that is why I have titled my piece “When it is no longer cricket” (meaning when it is no longer done or when it is no longer acceptable).

Even though those interviewed in the report below (both from the ruling party as well as from the opposition) sing the Tunku’s praises, you may have noticed that no one from PAS has been quoted. This is because if you were to ask a PAS leader regarding his or her opinion of the Tunku, you will not get positive feedback. The PAS people will condemn the Tunku for being a bad Muslim who drinks and gambles.

Hence people’s opinion of the Tunku would depend on your religious position. Liberal Malays and non-Malays (such as those quoted in the report below) would say nice things about the Tunku while conservative Malays or fundamentalist Muslims would have the opposite view.

I want to also say something about the Tunku, which none of those interviewed touched on. And this something is regarding why the Tunku is a great man, if you go by what those quoted in the report have to say about him.

I think I am slightly qualified (I said ‘slightly’) to comment because the Tunku was a personal friend of our family. My late parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., all knew him. And the Tunku was in England when my father was there and when my father married my mother and soon after that I was born.

Why is the Tunku such a great man (and many, other than maybe the PAS people, will agree that he is a great man)? Why is he non-racial, liberal, fair, just, and so on, as what they all say?

The answer to this question is: because of his upbringing.

You see, many of the early Umno leaders were men and women of breeding. Quite a number were from the royal family or what the Malays would call ‘orang istana’ (palace people). They were not only brought up in the palace environment but also received a good education, many of them in the UK. Hence they were a very different breed of people.

In fact, more than 70% of the Umno members at that time were teachers, writers, newspaper editors, poets, intellectuals, etc. They were well-read people who only wanted what was best for the country. They were not tainted by thoughts of the New Economic Policy or Deng Xiaoping’s ideology such as ‘to get rich is glorious’. And their leaders were those from the elite community.

If you had personally known the Umno leaders of the 1950s and 1960s, you can see the glaring difference between those people and the Umno people of today. For example, my own father and grandfather, both who never became Umno members although they were close to the leaders of that time, would be good examples of what the Malays of the 1950s and 1960s were like.

Hence when you reflect on what Malaysia used to be 56 years ago and then you compare that era to the Malaysia of today, you must not overlook one very crucial point. And that point is the Malays of that time were educated in the British tradition and were what we would probably call ‘Brown Englishmen’.

Another very important point is that the Malays of that era were also very feudalistic. As much as we may think that feudalism is so yesterday and today we should be talking about liberalism and republicanism, we must not overlook the fact that the old feudal Malays had certain values and standards that the Malays of today no longer possess.

Then came leaders like Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim who did not share these English ideals that the leaders a generation before them possessed. The ‘Umno Baru’ leaders who came later were all products of a local education. They had no love for Britain or the British tradition. In fact, they hated feudalism plus what they perceived as ‘western values’.

And that was when Malaysia began to erode into racism and religious intolerance.

We may be proud of the fact that, today, Malaysian politics is no longer dominated by the orang istana or the Brown Englishmen. We may be proud of the fact that Malaysian politics is now in the hands of the masses and no longer in the hands of the elite. However, while we may be proud of that one fact, we also have to live with the fact that Malaysian politics is also in the hands of the uncultured who have no sense of British fairness and will not care one bit, as what the British will say, even if this is not cricket.


As Tunku saw it: Maintaining the Merdeka spirit for a multi-racial Malaysia

By Martin Vengadesan and Rahmah Ghazali with additional reporting by Rashvinjeet S. Bedi and T. Avineshwaran, The Star

The iconic image of our first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman shouting “Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!” is more than a photograph or a soundbite.

It is living history. The birth of a nation that is still growing. A nation that is both a minor miracle and a lost opportunity. A nation that survived bloody guerrilla wars (the Emergency), hostile neighbours (the Confrontation) and terrifying racial riots (May 13) in its infancy to become a thriving yet dysfunctional entity.

As we celebrate 56 years of the collective blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors and our peers, it seems that a simple love of this land and of each other is what is needed. And surely no one person exemplified that more than our first Prime Minister.

“No matter what we are, we are all Malaysians,” our founding father once said. And it was his steely determination and commitment to an inclusive Malaysia that has helped steer our course ever since that momentous moment on August 31, 1957.

“Tunku never backed down in the face of extremism and communalism, something sorely missing today,” said Universiti Malaysia’s Assoc Prof Azmi Sharom to The Star Online.

“Much has been said about Tunku’s jovial and open nature which endeared him to Malaysians of all ethnicity.”

“But to me, his strong and principled stand as to what Malaysia represented made all the difference.”

Tunku was adamant that this country was a secular democracy and his key reason for this was because we are a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country,” he said.

Sharyn Shufiyan, the great grandchild of Tunku Abdul Rahman, passionately believes that Malaysians should embrace the fact that they are Malaysians regardless of ethnicity and religion.

“Even among the Malays, a new ideological trend is emerging. There are some who recognize the redundancy of Malay rights and privileges because elevating the poor should be across all ethnicities regardless,” she said.

She said ethnic prejudices exist also among non-Malays.

“Malays are sometimes looked down upon by the Chinese. Unless we start mixing with each other and getting to know one another, we will not be truly united as Malaysians,” she explained.

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin is another who draws inspiration from Tunku’s vision.

“Apart from the obvious accolade of being the father of Independence, Tunku laid down the foundations for a nation guided by justice, liberty and harmony, so that we could live beyond tolerance and celebrate each other’s diversity,” he said.

Prof Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said the spirit of multi-ethnic Malaysia has been deeply embedded into the Malaysian psyche from the very beginning.

“One of the most significant platforms he established, almost immediately after Merdeka, as a vehicle for fostering harmony in multicultural Malaysia was the National Art Gallery in 1958.”

“He really believed arts and social integration are inseparable,” he said.

Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed first heard about Tunku from his father the late Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat who served as Tunku’s political secretary in 1965.

“Tunku was a very honest man and did things for the country. He never thought about enriching himself,” said Nur Jazlan.

He also doesn’t think that any leader could unite Malaysia in the way Tunku did, especially when it came to bringing people together just before the Malaya’s independence.

“He never played the race or religious card to unite the rakyat,” he said adding that Tunku’s biggest contribution was the formation of Malaysia.

DAP national chairman Karpal Singh said Tunku was a leader who treated everyone fairly, regardless of their racial, religious or economic background.

“For me, it is still Tunku Abdul Rahman who was above all. He was one man who was determined to be a leader for all Malaysians,regardless of race,” he said.

Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman said despite being a leader of a Malay majority party Umno, the Tunku endorsed multiracial Malaysia and agreed to a coalition government as a means of fostering unity.

“He was the leader of Umno and an example to all Umno politicians. He was not an extremist. If we Umno leaders are racist, we will lose out,” she said.

Jempol MP Tan Sri Isa Samad echoes that view.

“It was Tunku who mooted the idea for power sharing which led to a coalition government in our country,” he said.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia chairman Dr Nasir Hashim said Tunku was able to foster a united multi-racial Malaya even though the British colonial rulers had earlier controlled the country through a “divide and rule” policy.

“To sustain this vision we must empower the people and revamp the present exploitative economic system to be people oriented,” he said.

“To progress we must balance out the uneven development of the country through efficient use of resources, create opportunities, denounce racial policies that create disharmony, and implement poverty eradication schemes, irrespective of race, religion, creed and region,” he said.

Malaysia as a nation has taken many steps forward since Tunku took that bold first move but we must be mindful that rapid progress sometimes means that important values get left behind. Our freedom and independence is a flame that must be allowed to shine brightly, not leave us sifting through charred ruins.